Two of the five men accused of breaking laws in Yellowstone and other national parks pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming on Tuesday.
Hamish McNab Campbell Cross pleaded guilty to foot travel in a thermal area and disorderly conduct. He agreed to pay $8,000 in fines and was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation, according to attorneys.
Cross was also banned from all federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Interior Department and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Parker Heuser pleaded guilty to charges of bicycling in wilderness and commercial photography without a permit based on incidents in Death Valley. Heuser also pleaded guilty to charges of off-road travel and creating a hazard in Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Heuser agreed to pay $1,100 in fines. Charges from Zion National Park were dropped, according to U.S. Attorney spokesman John Powell.
The other three defendants — Justis Cooper Price-Brown, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Charles Ryker Gamble — appeared in court and pleaded not guilty.
“They had to plead not guilty and have new counsel appointed,” attorney Thomas Fleener said.
Fleener, a Laramie-based lawyer, has represented all the men since charges were first filed over the summer until late last week, when he withdrew from the case.
“The reason I had to withdraw from representing them is because I had a conflict of interest,” Fleener told the News&Guide.
The three remaining defendants were given court-appointed attorneys Tuesday.
“The new lawyers and the court will sit down on Dec. 7 and figure out what to do next,” Fleener explained. “A jury trial is completely off the table because the crimes aren’t serious enough.”
That means the men will either agree to a plea deal or have a bench trial where a judge will decide their fate.
“The United States Attorney is contemplating jail time for the remaining three,” Fleener said.
The men will likely serve sentences at the Big Horn County Detention Center if sentenced.
The men are accused of filming themselves walking in restricted areas of Yellowstone and posting the photos and videos online.
On May 16, an area resident contacted Yellowstone park rangers after seeing four people walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. The men were identified and arrest warrants were issued. Those were later quashed per Fleener’s request so the men could enter the United States from Canada without immediately going to jail.
The three remaining defendants are behind the Vancouver, British Columbia, entertainment and clothing brand High on Life. The group also has a YouTube channel where it encourages fans to subscribe.
“They’re completely misunderstood,” Fleener said. “The United States has made them out to be the worst of the worst.”
The men received national backlash after the incident in Yellowstone, with many claiming they should go to jail for disrespecting national parks. Since then several new charges have been filed against them from national parks in Colorado, Nevada and Utah.
“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers. We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants.”
All charges will be resolved at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth, Fleener said.
“They’re really nice, funny, smart 20-something professionals, and they travel around to show people how much fun they can have,” Fleener said. “They intended no harm in any of this. The entire thing has been overblown. Hopefully in the future people will realize that.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis Leland Pico is prosecuting in the case.